Safety Inspections – What do HSE Inspectors Look for?
Following the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines last year, safety experts are predicting that we’re likely to see an increase in company directors facing prosecution for health and safety offences (the number trebled last year!). Here in the UK businesses can be prosecuted for a risk in the workplace, even if an accidents has not occurred as a result of that risk. This means that there’s a new urgency when it comes to health and safety inspections – can you afford to not get it right? Today we’re going to take a look at how you can stay ahead of the game when it comes to health and safety inspections. First let’s take a look at the main issues Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority (LA) inspectors will focus on as a priority.
Falls from height – work on or adjacent to fragile roofs and materials
Health risks – respirable silica dust exposure
Duty to manage asbestos
A health and safety inspector can visit if any of the work activities fall within any of the above four focus topics. While business owners may think that if their primary activities are not listed above, this may not be the case. Let’s take a look at what the health and safety inspectors will be looking for:
Falls from height – work on adjacent to fragile roofs and materials. Fragile roofs and skylights are quite common in workplaces across the UK. Inspectors will be asking the owners or duty holders of the premises how repair and maintenance work (such as gutter clearing) is carried out and checking existing equipment (such as rooftop demarcation barrier systems and rooftop access equipment).
Health risks – respirable silica dust. Dust containing toxic respirable crystalline silica (RCS) is often produced during quite ordinary work operations like chasing brickwork, block cutting and cutting concrete floors. The UK HSE has published detailed guidance on controlling this type of dust (and we’ve published several articles on the dangers of construction dust). Inspectors will be checking whether there is any work going on (however insignificant) that may generate this type of dust and whether or not it is effectively controlled in accordance with guidelines. This applies equally to routine tasks that create this type of dust (such as granite cutting) and inspectors will focus on checking that adequate controls are in place.
Duty to manage asbestos. Any building constructed before the year 2000 (when the use of all asbestos was finally banned here in the UK) may contain asbestos. Inspectors will check to ensure that the risk of asbestos in a building has been adequately assessed. This will be the case whether an asbestos survey has been carried out and a management plan with the necessary monitoring has been put in place. Inspectors will also seek out any minor construction work being undertaken that could breach the fabric of the building without carrying out a proper asbestos survey and putting effective controls in place.
Construction. The construction sector is defines as including building construction, trades and civil engineering and is one of the riskiest sectors in which to work. Despite stringent legislation and a steady decrease in injury statistics in recent years, fatal and major injury statistics are still high. Inspectors will focus on key risk areas when carrying out inspections in the construction sector and will focus on exposure to asbestos, silica dust and paint and diesel exhaust fumes. Exposure to dust, fumes, vapour or gases, the risk of dermatitis, noise and vibration and manual handling are all areas that will be inspected in detail in this sector.